Frank Harding, in his home in Courtenay. Photo by Scott Strasser.

98-year-old Courtenay man passes driving reassessment

Frank Harding has been driving for nearly eight decades

On its own, the fact that Frank Harding hasn’t been in a car accident isn’t that impressive.

What’s impressive is that he’s been driving for almost 80 years — and showing no signs of slowing down.

Following a recent medical examination, the 98-year-old Courtenay resident was recommended by his doctor to undergo a driving assessment to make sure he was still fit to get behind the wheel of his 1990 Volvo.

“[The doctor] figured that due to my age, I should do a road test,” said Harding, who was born in New Brunswick on Dec. 12, 1919. “He gave me a phone number and this lady took me out. It was foggy. We debated whether we should go out or not.”

Harding said he barely passed the reassessment the first time around due to poor weather and fog.

“All I could do was see the road just in front of my car,” he said. “She put me through a spot where there was a stop sign and I didn’t see it until I was already in the intersection.”

Harding said he was docked 59 points throughout the assessment. The maximum amount of points allowed to be docked was 60.

Because of how narrowly he had passed, his doctor recommended he perform the test again.

Harding said the second time he took the test that he passed with no issues.

“The woman said, ‘take me to Walmart.’ I said, ‘well, that’s not a problem’. So we went to Walmart.”

Eight decades of driving

Harding first obtained his driver’s licence in 1945, after returning to New Brunswick from the Second World War. Harding had served in Italy and also participated in the Liberation of Holland.

But he’d done plenty of driving before then.

Even though he had never owned a car before going overseas and had only driven tractors and other farm equipment until that point, Harding listed his occupation as “truck driver” when he first enlisted in the army.

“Where I lived, I never had an occupation. I hardly knew what the word meant,” he said. “Someone told me that when I joined the army, all I’d be doing is walking. So when they asked my occupation, right off the top of my head, I said I was a truck driver.”

Because of that little white lie, Harding often found himself performing various driving assignments for his Company during his time in Europe.

He mentioned how when he first arrived in Sicily, he was presented with a truck, a big water tank and a container of powder to retrieve water for the rest of the Company.

“That was my job — supplying water for all of these men until the engineers set up our water purifiers,” he said.

“My record said I was a truck driver, so if they needed a truck driver, they called on me!”

Frequent gym-goer

At 98, Harding attributes his continued good health to eating well and going to the Comox Recreation Centre regularly.

He said he goes to the gym five or six mornings per week, where he uses a dozen of the exercise machines.

“It gives me something to get up for. Otherwise, I’d probably stay in bed all day,” he said.

His niece Ernie Driscoll lives a few blocks away from Harding in Courtenay, where he lives by himself in a small bungalow.

“He’s so positive. He’s got such a good outlook on life,” she said. “He’s just amazing.”

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